Pádraigín's website a labour of love
For singer Pádraigín Ní Ullacháin researching, documenting and recording the traditional songs, tunes and culture of the hinterland where she grew up and lives is a lifelong labour of love.
She has leafed through dusty manuscripts, transcribed old tunes, listened to songs, and now, has learned the language of the internet as she worked on the Oriel Arts Project, which was officially launched in Omeath on Saturday.
The website, www.orielarts.com is, she says 'a renewal of the song and music' which she wrote about in 'Hidden Ulster: People, Songs and Traditions of Oriel'.
The website is not an online version of the book - it's a glorious well of images, songs, music and information about the rich cultural heritage of this region.
Visitors to the website are greeted with a three minute video of the Oriel landscape by her nephew film maker Feilimí O Connor which provides the backdrop against which the music and songs were originally composed.
The website expands on 'Hidden Ulster' and represents, not just the labour of the last two and a half years, but a lifetime dedicated to revealing the culture of Louth, Armagh and south Down.
'It's all about the renewal of material which had been lost in libraries and archives, and give new life and focus to Irish songs language songs and music,' says Pádraigín.
Alongside the documentation and transcripts, there are performances by musicians from Oriel and Co Down which bring the music and songs to life.
'In the summer of 2016, six singers from Oriel, and three from the Donegal Gaeltacht, were filmed singing Oriel songs, together with three local instrumental musicians from the wider Oriel region including Counties Armagh, Louth and south Down, who selected tunes from the music manuscripts collections, published in facsimile in A Hidden Ulster,' she explains.
Pádraigín is joined by her niece Siubhán, nephews Donal and Feilimí, brother-in-law Gerry, local musicians Zoe Conway and John McIntyre, along with singers and musicians from Armagh and Donegal.
The project also saw her shining a light on the harp tradition of Oriel, going back to the manuscripts of Patrick McGahon of Dungooley and Luke Donnellan who were famous collectors of songs and tunes from the region.
'Turlough O'Carolan came to Ballymascanlon where he stayed with the McNeills and wrote music for them. He would have met Seamus Dall Mac Curta and the Oriel poets,' she says. Other leading harpists from the area include Patrick Quinn, Patrick Byrne and Patrick Linden.
'The harpers of Oriel would have played on an early wire strung harp, and the selected pieces here are played on a copy of the Patrick Quin, Otway Harp,' she explains.
Just as the book was ideal for dipping into, the website promises to be a wonderful resource for anyone interested in traditional music. What makes Oriel Arts so fascinating is that, like the book Hidden Ulster, it puts the music and songs in social and political context, with Pádraigín telling the stories behind the music and songs, casting light on the musicians and composers and the times they lived in.
The website was designed by Robbie McMillen from Belfast. 'I learned how to use Wordpress and did the uploading and layout,' says Pádraigín who spent the summer uploading the material to it.
'I wanted it to look beautiful and be accessible to people and I hope that the diaspora will avail of it as well.'
Coinciding with the website launch, Pádraigín has released a CD of songs from Oriel.
'I was able to do this project thanks to generous funding from The Arts Council,' she says, adding that the work will be ongoing as she strives to ensure that the region gets the recognition it deserves.